Lyndon Bains Johnson was born on August 27, 1908 in a small town near Johnson City, Texas. He went to school at Southwest Texas State Teachers Collage where he learned compassion for the poverty of others when he taught students of Mexican descent (Kearns 2). He graduated in 1930. Four years later he married a woman named Claudia Taylor and together they had two children, Lynda and Lucie. Johnson became President at the age of 55 when President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. When he took oath, he had twenty six years of political experience and he was ready to take on the job of the President of the United States of America. It was at this time that he introduced to the American people the concept of a Great Society (Evans 4). The Great Society was a government sponsored set of programs that had and still has a distinct effect on our lives today.
In the spring of 1964, he had begun to use the phrase "great society" as a way to describe his goals. In 40 years, he wanted to rebuild the entire urban United States. He wanted to prevent an ugly America which was full of polluted air, water and food, disappearing fields and forests, and crowded recreational areas (Wicker 1). President Johnson wanted to start a society that would soon become a Great Society. He had a vision of a society that was problem free and he spent most of his life dedicating himself to this goal. His agenda was to aid education, attack on disease, start a medical care program fight poverty, control and prevent crime, and the push for people’s right to vote (Fitch 1). He wanted America to be a society that was better than any other (Cayton 778).
One of the many problems that Johnson wanted to fix was poverty. Kennedy had begun to start a poverty program, but since he was unable to continue it, Johnson had to finish it. The Economic Opportunity Act was passed in the summer of 1964. This act created Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), which sent volunteers to help people in poor communities. It also set up something called Community Action Program. This was to give the poor a voice in determining housing, health, and education policies in their own neighborhoods (Cayton 778).
Even though the war on poverty was one of his biggest challenges, the Civil Rights Act was also one of his biggest issues. The Great Society had its greatest successes in its first years. There were two Acts that helped the Great Society. One of them was the Voting Rights of 1965. This ensured the right to vote for all (Cayton 779). Congress passed the Voting Rights Act to assure minority registration and voting. The other was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It outlawed racial discrimination in public accommodations. Despite the beginning of new antipoverty and anti-discrimination programs, distress and disturbance in black ghettos troubled the Nation. President Johnson steadily put forth his influence against segregation and on behalf of law and order, but there was no early solution (Evans 24). Another act called the Immigration Act eliminated the amount that had discriminated against all immigrants from areas outside northern and western Europe.
Another area Johnson wanted to address was Medicare. Before Johnson, Harry Truman came up with a plan that was a medical assistance plan, but it had never been passed into a law. In 1965, Johnson orchestrated the passage of the Medicare amendment to the Social Security Act. Medicare provided hospital coverage to persons over the age 65 and allowed them to participate in a program that shared the cost of other medical expenses. Medicare coverage for the people with disabilities was implemented in 1973. Johnson did not want older Americans to be denied the use of medicine. He also did not want them to have to spend all the money they had in the bank to pay for their medical bills if they became ill (Cayton 780).
There was another program called Medicaid. It was like Medicare, except that it was for people of all ages who could not afford their own private health insurance. This demonstrated the government’s commitment to provide help to those Americans who needed it (Cayton 779).
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